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Killed Without Dying

Late on a sun-baked October afternoon in 1995, an attractive, 60-ish woman named Jodine Lesieur drove home after a long day cutting hair in her busy Laytonville barber shop. She turned west at the CDF station north of town and on out Ten Mile Creek Road to her immaculate doublewide-trailer home at the end of the road.

“If you do a bird-fly off 101, my house is only a mile off 101. If you drive in, it’s 5 miles,” Jodine says, adding: “And in the winter when the creek’s up, you have to have two cars, one on each side of the creek. You get out of one, walk across the foot bridge, and get into the other and keep on going.”

An ebullient woman long accustomed to fending for herself in a world that has often been unkind to her, Jodine or “Jodie” as she prefers to be called, bought her place north of Laytonville in 1969 “for $56 a month” while she still lived and worked in Venice Beach as a barber. Finally, to escape the abusive husband she’d married “when I was too young to know what I was getting into,” Jodie and her son left Los Angeles to make a new life for themselves in northern Mendocino County.

“I came to town with $1,500 and a teenage son,” Jodie recalls. “I knew if I didn’t leave I was going to do something stupid, and I wanted us to survive. I was a smart young girl, but I had no education. We lived in my camper while I got my barber shop going in town. I had to support myself. I had no child support or anything. I had to struggle all the time. I don’t know how I did it but I did.”

A single woman in a small town arouses the interest of men, the envy and suspicion of insecure women. But Jodie’s unfailing good cheer soon won over even the most skeptical among her new community. She worked hard and confined her romantic interests to eligible men, not married ones. Jodie shrugged off the inevitable gossip that accompanied her arrival and was soon established as the town barber — a self-supporting, well-liked member of the community. 

“I admit I’m flirty. I have a way with men. Men like me,” Jodie says matter-of-factly. “I knew everybody. I treated everybody the same — men, women, kids, cats, and dogs. Johnny Pinches can tell you that, because he knows me very well. He knows I was a fun, ambitious, hard-working girl who worked many hours for people in that town, and ended up leaving there feeling like I had no friends.”

Pinches, the popular former north county supervisor and a lifelong resident of Laytonville, confirms Jodie’s assessment of her place in the town’s social firmament. 

“A very good lady,” Pinches says, sadness in his voice. “I think for a while during the whole episode a lot of people kinda thought she was making up a story. I never thought that for a minute, but people who didn’t know her all that well were gossiping about her. It was a bad thing that happened to Jodie, a very bad thing.”

“I developed raw land,” Jodie says of her first years in the north county’s outback. “I brought electricity into Ten Mile Creek. I was the first one with a phone and electricity back there. I pioneered it.” 

The single mother from Los Angeles made a good life for herself and her son, the two of them holding their own and then some at the end of a dirt road outside an old logging town in a far corner of Mendocino County. She’d met a nice man about her own age and married him. Life was good.

Closing in on her 60th birthday on that October afternoon back in 1995, Jodie was sure her biggest battles were all behind her. She had nothing but good memories of her 22 years in Laytonville.

As she drove west into the afternoon sun on Ten Mile Creek Road that day after another long day cutting hair in town, Jodie noticed that there were people camping on property about a half-mile from her place. 

“I’m in charge of collecting money from the different property owners to keep the road up,” Jodie explains. “I’d written letters to the ones who hadn’t paid their $35 but hadn’t gotten a reply from these folks, the ones I saw on my way home. So when I saw them there I drove on in. I planned to see if I could collect the road fees and tell them about a new bridge we wanted to build over Ten Mile Creek. There were a bunch of guys all in their 20s and 30s in different places pulling things out of their pick-ups and sort of getting ready for dinner. This one guy looked right at me, so I drove on over to him — I can still see his face right this minute — and he complained that he shouldn’t have to pay because he never used the road. Another man came over and said, ‘Don’t pay any attention to him,’ and wrote me a check. That was it. I turned around and drove on home.”

The campers on this weekend, most of them related, were all men. There were about 10 of them. Most of them were from the Bay Area where they work in skilled blue-collar jobs as plumbers and electricians and telephone linemen. One had been a policeman in Clearlake where he still lived. 

Some of the men camping at the property down the road from Jodie’s house had been visiting the place since they were children. Two men named Diebner and Green had bought the 10-acre parcel back in 1969, about the same time Jodie and her young son were pioneering the parcel farther west on Ten Mile Creek where the road ends. 

The descendants of Diebner and Green are respectable people who sometimes brought their own wives and children to enjoy a weekend in the woods of Ten Mile Creek. On other occasions the men pitched their tents for a weekend of boys-only beer drinking and target shooting.

It was a boys-only the weekend of October 7th and 8th, 1995.

“I didn’t know any of them,” Jodie says, “because they don’t come up very often. After I got the check for the road work, I went on home and didn’t think anything more about it.” 

Very early the next morning, Jodie, with her husband Ron in a deep slumber beside her, suddenly woke up.

“Ron was usually the one who woke up at night because his back would be bothering him,” she explains. “That night it was me who woke up. You know those funny feelings we all get sometimes that wake us up in the middle of the night? That’s what I felt. I felt like something wasn’t right.” 

It wasn’t. 

And then it got worse.

“I woke up and a man was standing over me. I yelled. Ron was still asleep. He sort of groaned and rolled over,” Jodie remembers. “He didn’t wake up right away.”

But Ron woke up fast when he felt the cold metal of a gun barrel pressing against his temple. 

Ron Densmore, a retired shoe salesman, was then in his mid-60s. He’s partially disabled from an old back injury.

“If you look at me, you’re both dead,” the intruder said. 

Ron had awakened facing away from the gunman. He stayed that way, resisting an impulse to go for the pistol he kept handy beneath his mattress. 

Jodie begged Ron not to do anything. 

He didn’t. 

“I knew if we would have looked at him in his face, that would have been it. I know it,” Jodie says, with the conviction of a woman who knows she came very close to dying. 

The man with the gun then pulled the couple’s blankets down to the foot of the bed, leaving the couple exposed, the light from the full moon outside faintly illuminating their naked bodies.

“We always slept nude in the warm weather,” Jodie explains, adding, “not that it’s anybody’s business, but when something like this happens, you lose all your privacy anyway.”

With the terrified couple lying before him like a pair of laboratory cadavers, the man ran his gun slowly over the contours of Jodie’s body “like he was examining it,” Jodie remembers.

The man then inserted a finger in her vagina and ordered Jodie to masturbate him. 

Several times during his violation of Jodie, the intruder announced matter-of-factly that he would kill her and Ron both if she didn’t do exactly what he said, or if either Jodie or Ron looked up at his face.

When the man, this beast out of the night, had become fully erect, he pulled Jodie into a sitting position, grabbed her head from behind with his left hand, and forced his penis into her mouth, the gun in his right hand at Jodie’s head.

Ron, seething, lay still as the night monster raped the woman he loved.

The intruder sighed as he climaxed. 

Jodie asked if she could spit the semen into a sheet of tissue. 

“Yes,” the intruder said. 

Jodie lay back down. 

“He was done with me, and he turned me over and told me to put my face in the pillow. Then he put his gun right in the back of my neck and pushed down on it, and I just said: ‘O God. Is this the way it’s going to end?’ I said to myself: ‘Just take a deep breath, and I did. He held the gun on my head for a long time, like he was trying to decide whether or not to shoot me. I thought for sure I was going to die.” 

But the stunned couple, expecting gun shots and oblivion, instead heard the receding sounds of the intruder’s footsteps on the deck outside.

The clock on the night stand said 3:15 a.m. 

Ron grabbed his handgun from beneath his side of the mattress and looked out the bedroom’s sliding-glass door. He could clearly see the man running down the road in the moonlight. Ron thought he could see him clearly enough to take a shot at him.

“My husband grabbed the gun and was pointing at the man running down the driveway, but I didn’t want him to shoot,” Jodie remembers, with the total recall of a person who has emerged on the happy side of a near-death experience. “I was afraid he’d miss and the man would come back and get both of us. And,” she adds with a mirthless laugh at the absurdity of it, “I didn’t want to wreck our sliding-glass door. It’s crazy what you think about at a time like that. I was in total shock. I just did what I had to do to survive. My poor husband. I felt so sorry for him. I’m so glad he didn’t try to be a hero. I’m so proud of him for not being a hero!”

Ron immediately saw that the old .22 rifle he kept by the front door was missing. The intruder had scooped it up as he fled, thus ensuring it couldn’t be used on him. A year later at the end of another long, dry summer, the .22 appeared in the muck of the couple’s evaporated pond where it had been thrown by the rapist as he ran away.

After spending most of the morning gathering themselves from the shock of their ordeal, and certainly not looking forward to re-living the assault by describing it to other people, Jodie and Ron went to see their neighbor, a California Highway Patrol officer named Clarence Holmes. Holmes told Jodie to call the Sheriff’s Department right away. Jodie called Norm Vroman, now the Mendocino County District Attorney, for a second opinion. Vroman, emphatically seconding Holmes’ advice, told Jodie to go for the cops, and go for them now.

At noon Jodie called the Sheriff’s Department to report that she’d been raped.

Detectives Smallcomb and Wagner soon appeared on Ten Mile Creek Road. The first person they talked to was Ron, Jodie’s husband. Ron showed the detectives distinctive footprints in the couple’s driveway in the middle of which the brand name “BK” for “British Knights” was clearly visible. Ron described the campers down the road as “survivalists” and said that he thought one of them had probably done it because the “BK” prints led to their camp site. Ron and Jodie had covered the prints with milk cartons.

Jodie told the detectives that the rapist had been wearing “a camouflage outfit that felt new and rough.” She said his hands “were very soft,” that she could smell alcohol on his breath, “but he wasn’t drunk because he talked calmly and clearly.” She said that the rapist was “a very tall white man.” Jodie said she could tell he was tall from the reflection of his back in her bedroom mirror. 

Although it was early Sunday afternoon when the police arrived at the “survivalists” camp a half-mile east of Jodie and Ron’s doublewide, the camp was deserted. Neighbors had seen at least one vehicle — a brown, Chevy pick-up with an overhead camper on it — leave about ten that morning.

Smallcomb and Wagner noted footprints at the camp site with the distinguishing “BK” imprint.

The police knew that a person wearing the “BK” boots had been on Jodie and Ron’s property early Saturday morning, and that that same person had walked all over the camp site a half-mile down the road from the victim’s bed. The rapist was one of the campers.

The attack was reported only as a sheriff’s log item in the local newspapers — a single bad-news blip in the daily deluge of catastrophes, large and small. The blip vaguely referred to a sexual assault having occurred north of Laytonville.

Mendocino County detectives Smallcomb, Wagner, Pintane, and Kiely learned a lot, fast, about the case, and everything they learned pointed directly at the former Lake County police officer — John Heiman Scott, a 30-year-old married man with two young children.

John Heiman Scott

The man who had been wearing the BK boots had been at the Ten Mile camp. Ex-cop John Scott had been there too. The detectives soon learned the property was owned by the Diebners and the Greens, and Monday afternoon, less than 48 hours after the BK camper’s assault on Jodie, a pair of Mendocino County detectives were at Doug Diebner’s front door in the East Bay suburb of Livermore. 

The Livermore man expressed shock that any of the 10 or so men who’d spent the weekend on Ten Mile Creek could possibly have done such a thing. Most of them were related, Diebner said, either by blood or marriage, and all of them were law-abiding types, working people, not criminals. Nor were they “survivalists.” They just liked to spend a weekend in the country drinking beer and maybe shooting their guns once in a while. 

Diebner provided detectives Smallcomb and Wagner with a complete roster of the men who’d been at the all-guy weekend in the woods north of Laytonville. He explained that the expedition north from suburbia the previous weekend “was meant only to get away from their wives and kids, have a few beers and pitch horseshoes.” Three generations of Diebners and Greens and their in-laws had enjoyed the Ten Mile property. Doug Diebner said his family did not include “survivalists” or rapists.

But by the end of the day, and after talking to other members of the Diebner clan who’d been camping at Ten Mile the previous weekend, the Mendocino County detectives had honed in on one man as Jodie’s likely assailant — John Scott.

Scott, who’d married into the Diebner-Green clan, was identified as one of four men still sitting around the campfire at midnight. Then, according to his fellow campers, Scott was the only man still awake. 

Scott had also brought two semi-automatic handguns with him. A man identified only as “Andy” had a .22 rifle, another fellow identified only as “George” had brought along a black powder rifle. John Scott was the only man at the camp with a handgun, and he’d brought two of them.

Chief Bob Chaulk of the Clearlake Police told Mendocino County investigators that Scott had been a good cop who’d quit the department over a disputed disciplinary write-up for missing a department meeting. Prior to his joining the Clearlake department, Scott had successfully worked as a police officer with the San Pablo Police. 

Four days after the rape, Mendocino County detectives visited John Scott’s home in Clearlake Oaks. Mrs. Scott said her husband was still at work. She said her husband commuted to work in the Bay Area, but that he’d be at home some time shortly after 6 p.m. 

He was. 

And officers Kiely and Wagner of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department were waiting for him.

Scott, with the eerily righteous calm of the true psychopath, did not have to be coerced into talking with the Mendocino County detectives. 

He told them he’d been at the Ten Mile camp. He said that he’d become “very drunk” while playing horseshoes. He said he’d eventually vomited and, very late, had gone for a walk “to clear his head.” He said he’d walked from the camp site out Ten Mile Creek Road towards Highway 101, east and away from Jodie and Ron’s house at the other end of the road to the west. Scott said he was back at the campfire by 3 a.m. where he found Jack Hill smoking a cigarette. He bid Hill good night and went to sleep.

The detectives asked if they could have a look at Scott’s shoes. No problem, the confident suspect replied, showing his skeptical visitors to his closet. The distinctive “BK’s” weren’t among Scott’s footware.

The Mendocino County detectives knew they had their man, but if they were going to nail this guy, they’d need a lot more evidence than they had. So far, they had Scott’s statement that, yes, he’d been up and around late at night. And the two cops had confirmation that Scott had been the last guy up and around from one of his fellow campers. They also knew Scott had a pair of handguns with him at the camp site. 

And they had John Scott’s semen.

Jodie had spit Scott’s semen into a tissue and had placed the tissue in a sealed, plastic bag.

The detectives asked Scott if he’d drive to the nearby Rosebud Hospital to give the detectives a blood sample. 

“We can use it to clear you if we develop any physical evidence,” one of the detectives blandly told Scott.

No problem, Scott replied, unaware he was providing the detectives with the ultimate proof of his guilt.

The rapist’s contempt for his victim was total. It apparently hadn’t occurred to Scott that Jodie would have the presence of mind to preserve the errant seed of her violator to ultimately propagate justice.

Justice, however, was four years away.

Jodie and Ron had not seen the intruder’s face. They could not have picked him out of a line-up. 

But Jodie knew a lot about the man who had raped her.

“I saw him in the mirror when I first woke up, but I didn’t see a face; only his shadow in the mirror. I could see how tall he was. He had brushed his teeth, I knew that, because his breath was clean, fresh. He did have alcohol on his breath, but he was not drunk. And there was no body odor on him. He was immaculately clean, and that’s unusual for a man camping, isn’t it?”

Ron noted that for a man who would later claim he was so drunk the night’s events were unclear to him, the rapist did not slur his words and, when he left, crept out of the house and sprinted down the driveway. The intruder hadn’t so much as garbled a word or missed a step; he’d been stone, cold sober. 

Jodie is convinced that her attacker was not new at late-night stealth rapes. Someone had been doing some late-night creeping around Ten Mile before Jodie was attacked. One couple had just moved because they were so unnerved by a prowler. On another recent occasion, a terrified woman had fired her rifle into the air to drive off a man she’d caught looking in her window.

“I feel that he stalked me before,” Jodie insists. “I think he was in my house before, but I wasn’t there. Three men had come up to the house earlier that summer. That time they’d been camping with their families. It rained hard and they couldn’t drive back across the creek because the water had come up so fast. They needed to get permission from another land owner to go out to the highway another way. Three of them came to the house and asked my husband to use the phone. He let them in. I was at work. When it’s really storming I stay at my shop in town. I think one of the men who came up to the house that day to use the phone did it.”

Jodie hadn’t realized that the men at the camp were not only well-aware of her, some of them had been well-aware of her for years.

The afternoon just before she was attacked, when Jodie had driven into the Diebner’s camp to ask them to pay their share of Ten Mile Road’s maintenance, Mike Bellah, a Diebner family friend, told the other guys: “When I was 17, I had a real crush on Jodine. I thought she was hot.” 

Another man had remarked, “You know, for an old lady, she’s not bad-looking.”

But Scott’s fellow campers did not try to protect him from the law. 

Rick Dills recalled that Scott had referred to his handguns as “his babies.”

Thomas McDonald said John Scott was the last man awake when he went to bed.

Jack Hill said he got up to relieve himself and had paused for a cigarette at the campfire when Scott appeared and said he’d been out on the road for a walk “to clear his head.”

And Scott himself told the police that he’d vomited, had been up at 3 a.m. walking east on Ten Mile Creek Road, away from Jodie’s house, sobering up. He said he hadn’t seen anybody else on the road.

The cops had Scott’s blood and they had his semen, but Scott wasn’t arrested until October of 1997, two years after the terrible crime the police knew he’d committed.

The delay was explained this way in the police report:

“Miss Lesieur-Densmore had spit the semen into a tissue which was then turned over to the police. The DNA testing of this tissue was done in an attempt to match the blood drawn from John Scott. For various reasons the testing period was drawn out for a long period of time and the report indicated the match between the DNA on the tissue and Mr. Scott’s DNA was not submitted to the Mendocino County Sheriff until October of 1997, two years after the incident.”

Two years later, when charges were finally brought, a second media blip said, “John Scott, a former Lake County police officer, has been arrested and charged with the rape of a Laytonville woman.”

Liberal Mendocino County expressed the consensus opinion that because the rapist had been a cop, the local cops would not seriously pursue him.

“We wanted him twice as bad because he’d been a cop,” snorts Smallcomb. “He’d done something that outraged us that much more than it outraged everyone else.”

Scott denied the charges. He was immediately bailed out of jail by his parents. John Scott’s wife, her parents, his parents, and many of his friends, who included police officers, stood with him. They all said John Scott was innocent.

The campers had cooperated fully with the police investigation. They hadn’t lied for John Scott or otherwise tried to protect him. Their wives, however, were a different matter. 

“One day, before we went to trial,” Jodie recalls, “I was coming home from work. The creek was way up and I walked down to the foot bridge, and there was this little short guy and his family at the bridge. I said ‘Hi,’ but he said, ‘Who are you?’ We exchanged a couple more ‘Who are you’s?’ before his wife walks across. ‘I’m Jodine,’ I said. ‘I live at the end of the road. I’m the lady one of your relatives came over and raped.’ ‘What?’ she exclaimed. None of the women knew about it. The guys were keeping it a secret. But she wanted to know what I was talking about. I told her I didn’t understand how all the families could live with themselves for protecting this man knowing what he’d done. The woman was in shock. She didn’t know about it. I told her she ought to ask her husband about what had happened the last time all the men had been up here.”

John Scott’s wife and his parents still say he’s innocent. 

David Nelson of Ukiah was hired by the Scott family to defend their lamb against the criminal justice system’s lions. 

Why had it taken two years to arrest Scott?

The DNA was lost by the lab. Then it was found and misplaced again. The lab’s fumbling delayed the arrest because it delayed confirmation that Scott’s blood matched his semen in irrefutable detail. The tests had to be re-done, and then re-done again, which, ironically, eventually worked to the prosecution’s advantage. When the DNA test results finally reached Ukiah two years after Jodie’s rape, jubilant Mendocino County detectives had the evidence they needed to finally arrest their man. Eight different tests and re-tests revealed that only 1 person in 1.3 billion possessed the life stuff possessed by John Heiman Scott.

It had been almost two years since the terrible night Scott had crept into Jodie’s house at the end of Ten Mile Road and had forced her to fellate him, a gun at her head, death threats echoing in her and her husband’s ears.

It had taken two years to make the DNA match, but now that it was made, it still took another two years to put John Scott into a state prison cell. Dave Nelson did what a good defense lawyer is supposed to do — keep his client out of jail until it was impossible to keep him out of jail. 

The only people who stood up for Jodie right from the beginning and right on through until the day Scott finally went off to state prison were the cops, and they did their jobs with an efficient doggedness fueled by anger at the viciously harrowing nature of the crime. 

 Not much urgency was displayed anywhere else in the system.

“I felt like I was the one on trial,” Jodie says. “I had never seen this man before, but I had to live for almost two years — two years! — not knowing who it was or if he was going to come back and kill me. And all that time I felt like I was being judged by too many people in the wrong way. And do you know what? My business actually increased. Everyone wanted to see the woman who’d been raped. I smiled the whole time, though. I kept my head up and let people know I was OK, but inside I was dying. I thought a lot of people were coming to get their hair cut for the wrong reasons. I didn’t like what I could see in their faces. I was dying but I didn’t die. I ended up leaving Laytonville feeling like I had no friends.”

Jodie sold her house, and she and Ron moved away, far away. But Jodie stayed on her feet. 

“When a woman falls apart, who is she hurting? She gets sympathy from everybody for a short time, but who does she hurt? Who’s going to take care of me if I fall apart? Who’s going to pay my bills? Nobody. I couldn’t fall apart.”

And she hasn’t.

“I suffered for two years before it finally went to court. First of all, I didn’t have any idea who this man was. I had no picture in my mind, so all I knew was that he was tall. So all this time, whenever I saw a real tall man that I didn’t know, and the man would be friendly, I always wondered, ‘Is this the man?’ One time I was cutting hair and I saw this man on the public phone over across the street at Geiger’s Market. He was standing facing my shop while he talked. He was probably just an innocent guy talking on the phone looking across the street but not really seeing me because he was in conversation. But I wondered, ‘Is this the man?’ All this time before he was arrested — two years – I had no idea who it was. And all this time I’m thinking things like, ‘Maybe I caused it to happen. Maybe it was my fault.’ And people are looking at me like it’s my fault, and all I was doing was trying to be friendly and keep a happy face and keep my troubles at home and not bring them to the barbershop. But I had to live with this fear. How did I know he wasn’t checking on me? I’m sure he was very careful during that time because he knew he was in trouble. But for me it was like I was in prison for two years.”

Finally, Jodie and Ron saw their night stalker. 

“I’d never been to court before. I didn’t know anything about how it worked. Here they bring the prisoners in in their little orange uniforms. Ron and I are sitting there looking at them trying to guess which one of them is him. We don’t know because we never saw his face. I saw the rest of him, but I didn’t see his face. He made sure we didn’t see his face. I only saw the reflection of his back in the mirror when I first woke up. No face, only the shadow in the mirror. I could see how tall he was, but that’s all. Out of all of them, we finally picked the only one it even could have been, but he looked like a crumb bum. I knew he wasn’t the guy, but if it had to be one of the guys sitting there in their orange suits, it was him. He looked like a dope fiend, all skinny and hollow-faced. This definitely was not the guy. After all the men in the orange jump suits were processed then they brought him in with the women! He went over and sat with the men. As soon as he walked into the room it was like my hair stood up. I knew exactly that this was the man. No doubt about it. We both knew. My husband and me. Then we heard his voice, and we knew it was him. I was so shocked when I saw him. I hadn’t seem him until court. He was a nice-looking man. He tried to avoid eye contact with me. His wife, too, but I got the feeling from her that she knew the truth.”

A Willits policeman who was in court on another matter the day Jodie took the stand said of her account of her ordeal: “I was almost crying myself. The idea that someone would come in to my home and hold a gun to my wife’s head....”

Beth Norman prosecuted John Scott on behalf of the people of Mendocino County.

“I can’t give Jodie enough credit,” Norman says. “She’s a survivor; a very, very strong personality and an excellent witness. She did everything we asked her to do. But as strong as she is, she still choked up when she testified. When you talk to her you might not think she’d lived through such a terrible thing because she’s always so upbeat, but Jodie was hit very hard.”

The prosecutor, like the police, gave the case everything she had.

“None of us knew for a certainty who had done it. But poor Jodie. To spit this stuff into a Kleenex and save it, then go on with her life knowing the man was still out there, well, she’s a very brave lady."

Norman explains the difficulties she faced as prosecutor. 

“There were no eyewitnesses. Both Jodie and her husband were told that they would die if they tried to look at the guy. We didn’t have the boots. By the time it went to court, Jodie and Ron had moved and had to travel a long distance to be present. The lab, for various reasons, kept having to re-test the DNA. A process that ordinarily takes three months, took almost two years, which ironically turned out to be why we were so certain of the results. The DNA expert testified that he’d done more tests on this one sample than any sample he’d ever done, because he wanted to be able to be absolutely certain of the results in light of the earlier mistakes the lab had made. He said he was absolutely certain of the results.”

Scott’s attorney, the formidable Dave Nelson, did everything he could on behalf of his client and his client’s disbelieving, steadfast family. 

“Our own DNA expert confirmed the results,” Nelson says, adding with seemingly un-ironic understatement: “It was persuasive. We’d looked at some other people in the neighborhood as possible suspects, but we couldn’t answer the DNA evidence.”

Finally, on January 8th, 1999, four years after the event, John Scott pled no contest to forceful oral copulation and no contest to the special allegation that he’d used a gun in the commission of a felony. The case had been set for trial, but the Scott defense team’s investigation of the DNA was unable to provide a credible basis for challenging the results of the scientific evidence on his behalf. Rather than risk conviction on all the charges and life imprisonment if he took his case before a jury, Scott took 10 years in state prison.

At Scott’s court appearances, the straight-arrow young family man had always appeared with his young wife and the couple’s well-dressed, well-behaved little boys. Also with him was his steadfast support team consisting of both his and his wife’s parents and his numerous friends, all of them solid, church-going folks who could not believe John Scott could have done such a thing as enter a 60-year-old woman’s house at three in the morning and rape her in her own bed as he kept her and her husband helpless at gun point.

The defendant even seemed to perplex the probation department:

“Mr. Scott has absolutely no criminal record and has led an otherwise productive life as a military policeman, a San Pablo police officer and a Clearlake police officer. Since leaving the Clearlake Police Department, he has been gainfully employed as an insulator for various large union construction jobs. He’s a devoted family man whose life is essentially consumed with his family and his job.”

Mr. and Mrs. Scott presented a perfectly wholesome family tableau. This nice young man did what? Impossible! Why, just look at him sitting there with his pretty little wife and those two adorable little boys.

All of this respectability arrayed against her did not confuse Jodie. 

“When I was finally able to stand and say what I wanted to say, I mostly talked directly to his wife. I let her know that if she thinks it’s the first time her husband has done this, she’s really very, very wrong. I told her he’s a lucky person to have all this support behind him, considering the crime he committed.”

Scott never admitted guilt. He said he was “extremely drunk on hard liquor” that night but had “no memory” of the rape. He conceded that the evidence “pointed in his direction” but that he was pleading guilty so “I can see my kids again before they’re adults.”

Prosecutor Norman dismisses Scott’s “I-was-so-drunk-I-didn’t-know-what-I-was-doing” defense.

“He was very cool. He showed no remorse whatsoever. Drunk? I went up to Laytonville because I wanted to see where Jodie lived. I wanted to see what it would take to get from where Scott and the other guys were camped to Jodie’s house if you were drunk. Scott had to walk a half-mile down the road, past two gated turns in the road, all the way up the hill to her place, across an unlit porch, through the house and down the hallway to Jodie and Ron’s bedroom. I can’t see a drunk — full moon or not — doing that. And the cops could not find any signs of vomit at the place a half-mile away where Scott and the rest of the guys were camping.”

Jodie stayed strong. 

“That day in court I told his wife I felt sorry for her because she believed in him, stood by him. But I said to her: ‘Even though you believe in him and you stand by him, don’t you wonder when you go to bed whether or not he really did this or not? When you make love with him, do you think about what he did to me? You must, because it’s a true story’.” 

Epilog: John Heiman Scott, 6-4 / 240 pounds, 56, is a registered sex offender living in Molina, Florida.

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